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The use of extended sitting hours to ram through controversial electoral law is an abuse of parliamentary processes and will continue the downward spiral of free speech in New Zealand National’s electoral law spokesperson Nick Smith says.

“This morning the Government, without agreement of the Business Committee and without debate in Parliament, will attempt to shove through their draconian, free speech limiting waka-jumping bill.

“The use of extended sitting hours, normally reserved for Treaty and other technical bills that have full support of the Parliament, makes a mockery of their claim to be the most ‘open and transparent’ Government in history.

“The sham of the Parliamentary process is not just that it is being passed under extended hours, but that the Government is blocking debate to serious amendments.

“Many submitters and New Zealanders see a clear distinction between constituency MPs who are directly elected and do not want party leaders having the power to dismiss them from Parliament. The Government refused to allow this to be debated.

“The breadth and depth of opposition to this constitutionally significant bill is a worry to all New Zealanders who value free speech, tolerance of dissent and democracy.

“The Attorney General himself has described the law as having a ‘chilling effect’ on the free speech of MPs, and the attempt to push the law through using pseudo-urgency is shocking.

“Critics also include 21 electoral law experts from four of our universities, editorials from journalists in all of New Zealand’s main cities, the Legislative Advisory Committee, the youth wings of the Labour, Green, National and Act parties, past and present Green Party MPs, former Speakers and even the Clerk of the House.

“This continues a worrying recent pattern of attack on free speech in New Zealand.

“The National Party will fight this law every step of the way. I’m calling on just four Green MPs to show the courage of their convictions, reject this ‘dead rat’, and put an end to the law their very own leader calls ‘a threat to democracy’.”

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